Dining

Kansas City Food Stars: Patrick Ryan of Port Fonda

The man who made his name in an unlikely space.

As Kansas City’s food truck scene began to flourish, one in particular not only garnered widespread acclaim—it also developed a cult following. Tucked inside a sleek Airstream that boasted one of the most exclusive tables in town, Chef Patrick Ryan solidified his reputation as a master of Mexican cuisine with tempting tortas, tacos and chilaquiles, among other dishes, that struck the perfect balance of delicious flavors and innovative preparation.

Fast forward a mere year and Port Fonda put down roots as a brick and mortar restaurant in Kansas City’s Westport neighborhood, joining a local culinary scene that’s “changed exponentially” thanks to a mix of old and new establishments that “have flourished, allowing our city to hold on to and redefine or expand our culinary identity,” he says.

Photo by Paul Andrews

The transition to a restaurant is an experience that Ryan calls equal parts overwhelming and lucky.

“We opened the restaurant with a lot of hype and it was almost impossible to live up to,” he says. “I’m lucky to have a business partner [Jamie Davila] and an amazing team of employees that help make it happen day in and day out.”

At the heart and soul of Port Fonda’s success? The food, of course, which doesn’t simply take Mexican cuisine to a new (and mouthwatering) level—it also pays tribute to Ryan’s idol and inspiration, Chicago-based Chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill fame, among other celebrated restaurants.

“I had a chance to work for him and his team in 2000-2001,” he says. “He’s managed to grow his business by hiring from within and being socially and environmentally responsible, and it’s a very impressive operation on all levels.”

Yet at its core, Port Fonda’s nationally acclaimed cuisine is about one thing: love.

“We have such a unique concept and a real love for our version of Mexican food, great tequila, mezcal and Mexican beers,” Ryan says.

The next time you’re at Port Fonda, make a point to order Ryan’s favorite dish to prepare: chilaquiles with chorizo verde, salsa molacajete and a fried egg.

Meanwhile, once he’s done making magic in the kitchen, you can often find Ryan enjoying an entirely different food.

“I basically eat pizza all the time,” he says. “Shout out to Johnny Jo’s in the West Plaza.”

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